Exploring Differences Among Students Studying Abroad

Kim Davidson
Kathleen Knaul
Dawn Hoff


This training is a meant as a TOT for Academic Directors (AD) who are working with American students on an island study abroad program. The intent is for participants to be exposed to the importance of exploring differences with students that are adjusting cross-culturally and, to expose them to ways of exploring and processing these differences. The training begins with a drawing activity that allows participants to see how a common experience can be often result in different perceptions because what each person perceives is shaped by previous experiences and identity. This activity spurs a discussion about various types of differences and how differences that may effect students studying abroad. Once participants are clear on the meaning and possible effects of difference, this is related to the current transpiring need to discuss differences among study abroad students. Statistics are shown from SIT and the overall study abroad field to show the changing demographics of students and how this change is affecting students. Showing a video clip of an African American woman discussing her experience with a White, Irish American women on a Ghana African Diaspora Studies program then strengthens the point made through the statistics. During the processing stage, as participants begin to relate the video clip to their own experiences, they are given paper with questions on it to assist them in writing/telling their experience. These stories are then shared with the group with the intent of making it clear that differences among peer students can influence experiences and cross-cultural adjustment. After a short break, the next activity begins to connect the process of exploring differences with cross-cultural adjustment. Peterson's Cross-cultural Adjustment Model is introduced and explained. Participants then have the opportunity to relate their personal experience to where and how it fits into the model. A discussion follows about the consequences and benefits of dealing with differences at certain times during cross-cultural adjustment and during the semester. In the final activity participants generate activities that can be used during the beginning, middle, and end of the semester as well as throughout. They then share and explain the activities that they come up with. The training ends with an exercise in which participants write down something they have taken from the training. The hope is that during the course of the training, participants will understand the meaning of difference, realize how it relates to study abroad, themselves and their students, and then obtain concrete ways to do something with this new information.